The High Court here today ordered a teenager who was charged with murder for the death of 23 people in a fire at Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah almost three years ago to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after finding him guilty of the offence.

Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah meted out the sentence on the teenager, who is now 19 years-old , after finding that the defence had failed to raise reasonable doubts against the 23 murder charges.

The boy was 16 when the offence was committed

“After hearing the testimony of all parties, the court found that the first offender (the teenager) intentionally committed mischief to cause death,” said the judge.

He said since the teenager was still a juvenile when the offence was committed, he had applied Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 to sentence him.

It is up to the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to determine the terms and condition of the teenager’s detention from time to time, he added.

In mitigation, lawyer Haijan Omar, representing the teenager, said his client apologised to everyone involved and that he would appeal against the sentence.

On Jan 28, 2020, Justice Azman ordered the teenager to enter his defence on the charge after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against him, who is now 19.

The court however acquitted and discharged another person, also of the same age, who was charged with him without calling for his defence.

The two of them were initially jointly charged with the murder offence, but the charge was later amended following the decision at the end of the prosecution’s case.

According to the amended charge, the teenager, together with another individual who had not been identified, was charged with murdering and causing the death of the 23 inmates at the tahfiz centre at Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju here, between 4.15 am and 6.45 am on Sept 14, 2017.

He was charged with 23 counts of murder each, framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, which provides the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

However, Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 states that a death sentence shall not be pronounced or recorded against a person convicted of an offence if the child is under the age of 18, and in lieu of the death sentence, as provided under Section 97 (2) of the same law, the court shall order the person to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Section 94 of the same law also empowers the court to order the parents or guardian of the child offender to pay fine or compensation.

The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor Julia Ibrahim.